By Rosalind Sedacca, CCT
Children are affected by divorce differently at different ages and in reaction to differing circumstances in their lives. But one thing’s for certain, they need to be part of ongoing dialogue about your divorce before, during and long after so they feel connected to you, safe, secure and loved.
What should you discuss with your child – and how? Here are some important concepts and strategies to keep in mind as you share parent/child conversations about life in a family affected by divorce or separation.
• Be sure to answer questions honestly but age-appropriately. Don’t discuss adult material with your children, even teens, as temping as it may be. Use friends as confidants, not your children.
• Be compassionate and keep an optimistic perspective. “Things may be difficult now, but they will get better. We’ll take things one day at a time. Change may seem frightening at first, but often it turns out to be a good thing for everyone.”
• Avoid creating loyalty conflicts for your child. Don’t ask them to choose sides. Ask questions with sensitivity: “I don’t want you to feel like you’re betraying your
father/mother or like you’re spying, but tell me….”
• Avoid giving hope of reconciliation to your child. That can prolong confusion, play havoc with their emotions and may lead to behavior problems.
• Never “label” your child (a liar, brat, bad, a problem) or say, “You’re just like your mother/father.” Children tend to become what they are labeled, or fear that if they are “just like Mom/Dad,” then maybe you will leave them too.
• Be careful not to introduce too many changes at once or too quickly. Stability is important.
• Encourage communication between your child and the other parent. If you sense a problem between them, talk about it with them. Sometimes you may have to speak up on your child’s behalf. Or you may have to give your child permission to express love for their other parent because they may feel guilty or disloyal if they do.
Your understanding and compassion towards your children are crucial during and after divorce. Put yourself in their shoes and see the world from your child’s perspective before talking with them about your expectations and changes they are facing. Be receptive to listening to their feelings and acknowledging their right to express how they feel, even when it’s not what you want to hear. When children feel heard and understood they are less likely to act out and disrespect you as the parent.
As tough as this time may be for you, remember, it’s even tougher on your kids. By keeping that in mind you will be a more effective and loving parent in the months and years ahead!
*** *** ***
Rosalind Sedacca, CCT is a Divorce and Parenting Coach. She is founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network for parents and author of the internationally acclaimed ebook: How Do I Tell the Kids About the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook Guide to Preparing Your Children – with Love! Her free ebook on Post-Divorce Parenting: Success Strategies for Getting It Right is available at www.childcentereddivorce.com.
By Rosalind Sedacca, CCT
Sadly, celebrity divorces make all the headlines for all the wrong reasons. They showcase the most unconscious behavior, especially when it comes to relationships.
Far too often we find the more shallow celebrities, and those who follow them with star-lit eyes, spend more time working out their wedding details than on determining whether this was a good match from the start. Too many couples think no further than the honeymoon plans when contemplating marriage. They have no idea about the complexity behind real relationship issues and the maturity it takes to create a successful long-term outcome. Kim Kardashian is just one example.
Divorced couples learn through hindsight about the challenges two people face when living together week after week, month after month in today’s stress-filled world. It takes awareness, flexibility, great communication skills and the ability to understand your partner’s perspective to make a relationship work – and that’s just for routine life experiences. Throw in accidents, sickness, job loss and other major stressors, not to mention the complexities that come with having children, and it’s easy to understand why so many marriages fail and too often end in divorce.
If you’re divorced and looking to find a healthier, happier relationship ahead, or marrying for the first time and want to avoid relationship disasters, here are some tips that are worth serious consideration:
- Know your partner well — during the good times and the bad. It’s after you face disagreements, nursing your partner through an illness and other life challenges that you find out who you are really contemplating spending the rest of your life with. If what you discover makes you uncomfortable, have some serious conversations – or move on before making any further commitments.
- Don’t expect to be “completed,” “saved,” or “fixed.” No one can fill the void in your inner self. You’re setting your partner up for failure if you expect them to fix your problems and love you through your unresolved issues. Do the inner work on yourself first, perhaps with the support of a therapist or coach. Heal your wounds and neediness. Then seek out another soul who has done the same to partner with you.
- Be hooked on more than just romance. Happily married couples will tell you that you have to be more than great bed-mates to make a real relationship work. Look for common values, goals, beliefs and interests. Opposites may attract in the short-term, but you want a marriage based on respect and sharing a future together. If your core values and interests are not in alignment, you’re facing a tougher road ahead.
- Be your authentic self – and don’t change for a partner’s approval. You can’t fake your way through a marriage. If you hate sports, the internet or pets, state it up front and find a mate who loves you knowing this reality. It’s unfair to hide your true self from your partner and it’s a disservice to yourself pretending to be who you are not. It’s wise to honor who you are. Then look for a partner with high self-esteem who loves themselves as they are. That’s a formula for lasting relationship success!
As Kim Kardashian discovered, money won’t buy you a happy marriage. You can’t use sensuality as a substitute for good sense. Relationships don’t have storybook endings. They require constant attention, the ability to sacrifice and compromise at times, and a heavy dose of respect for the person you brought into your life.
Before setting out in the relationship world, work on your inner demons, let go of the baggage from previous relationships, and take your time in getting to know the special partner you are choosing. There’s no magic wand that will make your relationship succeed, but these guidelines will set you on a course that will circumvent a lot of pot holes along the road to happily ever after.
* * *
Rosalind Sedacca, CCT is a Divorce and Relationship Coach. She is founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network for parents and author of the internationally acclaimed ebook: How Do I Tell the Kids About the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook Guide to Preparing Your Children – with Love! She is also co-author of 99 Things Women Wish They Knew Before Dating After 40, 50 & Yes, 60! Her free ebook on Post-Divorce Parenting: Success Strategies for Getting It Right is available at www.childcentereddivorce.com. Rosalind’s free dating ebook can be found at www.womendatingafter40.com.
Parenting is a continual learning process, which is compounded when you are going through a divorce. Not only does it require an understanding of the child’s needs and the skills to meet those needs, but it requires additional special attention. Talking to your children about the divorce could be one of the most difficult experiences of parenting, because you want, of course, your wisdom to be heard and then your child to apply it. From my work with divorced parents and their children, I have gained much insight into what we, as adults, need to do to make the relationship work effectively on both sides.
The major complaint that parents have about their children is that they just don’t listen. Not surprisingly, children have the same complaint. “My parents don’t hear me. They would rather lecture me.” If we want our children to feel comfortable talking with us during this trying time, we must adhere to several key principles that can enhance our relationship with them, and ultimately, help them to become well-adjusted and emotionally healthy.
The following are 10 important components to raising happy, healthy, open children – even after they experience their parents’ divorce:
1. Be willing to listen first, then offer opinions — rather than turning the dialogue into a lecture. You do not want your children to feel like you’re not working on their same wavelength. This could lead to misunderstandings and fights. However, you are not their peer, so it is always necessary to maintain the parental role.
2. Improve your understanding by using good body language. Be sure that your facial expressions and words are in alignment, because body language reveals an overall emotional tone.
3. Repeat back what the child says. “I hear you say that you’re afraid of the changes that are happening in our family. Is that right?” This is called reflective listening. “I understand what you’re saying. However, I want to assure you that…”
4. Encourage a free expression of feelings, thoughts and ideas without shutting down the child. This keeps the conversation open and maintains your awareness of the child’s perspective.
5. Allow “kid contact time” that engages the child in a positive interactive xperience with you. In other words, save time in your day for quality time with your eight year old or shopping with your twelve year old. Make a point to praise something every day and be generous with your love, hugs and compliments. This encourages a sense of trust and closeness, essential components for a child whose parents are no longer living together.
6. Be empathetic. By putting yourself in your child’s shoes, you begin to remember what it was like to be that age — what you were afraid of, what your most important concerns were, what you needed from your parents. Remember that what your child is experiencing is very real.
7. Set down some rules and guidelines and be consistent with following through. However, if there are too many restrictions, children have more opportunity to fail. On the other hand, too few rules, too much permissiveness, offers no guidance and no structure. Studies show that children prefer to know what they can and cannot do. House rules help children to understand expectations and to develop self-control. Invite your children to participate in developing those rules, because their input is important for their self-esteem and confidence.
8. Practice being a good role model. Therefore, express the traits you want your children to copy, such as respect, fairness, friendliness, honesty, kindness and tolerance of others. How you handle your anger, for instance, is the behavior you pass on to your children. If you don’t like what you see, take a look at yourself.
9. Be a strong support system for your children. As a support, you are available when they need to talk. You are there to help and encourage them. Seize every available moment to make a connection. Help your children identify other supportive people in their lives with whom they can also talk.
10. Make flexibility a priority. Try not to base your expectations on “shoulds.” Every child is different and his/her response to the divorce will be unique. Some children will react with anger, sadness, or guilt. Others will react with complete silence. Adjust your handling of each child according to the personality and needs of the individual.
Understand that stress comes with the enormous responsibility of parenting your child before, during and after the divorce. Be aware of your own needs and limitations. You have strengths and weaknesses and with an awareness of both, you can be kinder and gentler with yourself. If you take care of yourself and your own well-being, you are modeling an important value for your children, as well.
* * *
Rosalind Sedacca, CCT is a Divorce & Parenting Coach and author of How Do I Tell the Kids about the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook Guide to Preparing Your Children — with Love! For her free ebook on Post-Divorce Parenting, free articles, blog and valuable resources on divorce and parenting issues go to: www.childcentereddivorce.com.
© Rosalind Sedacca, CCT All Rights Reserved
By Rosalind Sedacca, CCT
Michael Matracci, Esq. is one of the “good guy” collaborative divorce attorneys who avidly supports the concept and principles of Child-Centered Divorce. He is the author of an excellent book, Fighting Over the Kids: Resolving Day-to-Day Custody Conflict in Divorce Situations, which can be found at his website at www.divorcewithoutdishonor.com.
Recently I interviewed Michael, who is a divorced parent himself. He shared with me a valuable technique he uses when dealing with parenting issues with his former spouse. I loved the concept and am passing it along to other parents who face continuous challenges, month after month, year after year, as they raise their children following a divorce.
Michael asks himself three basic questions that get to the heart of what a child-centered divorce is about: doing the very best for your children. When a parenting issue arises that he and his former spouse have to face, before he takes any action he first answers these questions:
- If we were two “normal” married parents, what would I do?
- If we were still married, would this issue really be a big deal?
- Is this about our child – or more about ME and HER/HIM?
These questions put you in the right perspective for taking wise and effective action. They help you to detach from the emotional “drama” of your divorce. Have you been caught up in your “story” about being a victim, abused, hurt, angry, jealous or exploited by your former spouse? By questioning your motives you can remind yourself that parenting issues are not about YOU; they are about what’s in the best interest of the children you love.
That can mean sacrificing some ego gratification, biting your tongue when you want to be sarcastic, being more tolerant of an ex who sees things differently regarding discipline, rules and other parenting choices. At the same time, it can also bring you into closer alignment with your children’s other parent which will help you to determine the best outcomes for your children together as their parents.
Most important of all, these questions will remind you that when it comes to parenting decision, always take the high road. Be the “mature” parent who puts their children’s needs first. That’s always the answer you are looking for – and one that you will never regret.
* * *
For other free articles on Child-Centered Divorce, a free ezine, valuable resources for parents, coaching and other services, visit http://www.childcentereddivorce.com. Rosalind Sedacca, CCT is founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network and author of the new ebook, How Do I Tell the Kids … about the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook Guide to Preparing Your Children — with Love!
© Rosalind Sedacca All Rights Reserved